Transmission in Motion

Seminar Blogs

“Disruptive Forces of Sonification” – Aishwarya Kumar

In her artist talk at the conference – Magical Thinking: Towards a Future Worth Living organized by Sonic Arts Festival 2020, Anja Kanngieser, political geographer and sound artist describes the process of attunement as a way to honor specificities. Their context was a collection of soundscapes presented as embodied climate reality in Papua New Guinea and Vanautu. Their work, the aforementioned project and otherwise, begins with the premise that sound is a constant phenomenon, whether heard, felt or sensed by human and non-human species, and that listening as an act is critically feminist – in that the conscious practice of listening requires attention and critical examination of not just what we listen to but how we listen too.

In a similar vein during his presentation, Dr. Thomas Hermann posed a benefit that shows how sonification – the auditory representation of data – enables to self-regulate the ways and what we listen to by presenting new approaches and raises awareness to information without distracting or disrupting primary activity. Both researchers worked with the critical possibilities through sound – “the ability of sound to externalize information so that different people can share and address what is going on” (Transmission in Motion, n.d). While Dr. Thomas Hermann’s recent work has focused on the effects of sonification in enhancing motor control in sports, medical and more movement-based research, I would like to focus on the intended effects argued through Anja Kanngieser’s work on body language, listening, and ecological thought.

Kanngieser’s work focuses on the capacity of listening and empathy, based on models of feminized listening – to know what is being articulated and how we listen to it. It focuses both on the practice of generating sound and receiving it – of attunement to the invisible forces of the ecological world. Their soundscape – Listening to the Anthropocene: Sound and Ecological Crisis[1], is a collection of sounds that collect and map the ecological sounds in a time of environmental crisis, sound as data that the human sense is incapable of hearing whether due to proximity or the delinking of nature from culture through Western perspectives. It brings to the front the dying density of biodiversity overwhelmed by machinery and silences, highlighted the changing soundscapes in current environmental transitions, and the closely entangled relationship between nature and societies.

Their work is meant to inspire conversation and propel ecological thinking by presenting the enmeshed way nature and culture work together. This is done by bringing to front data otherwise hidden, subliminal or ignored. Through this, sonification – of imperceptible ecological data – frames new imaginaries of an ecological world, one where the non-human is as constitutive of the ecology as is the human. In their work, sound renders the imperceptible and invisible narratives of otherwise marginalized agents. The marginalized data from disenfranchised societies, biodiversity, landscapes and more is data that has traditionally been filtered out of popular more dominant narratives of the world. Through their auditory representation of the data found in the margins then, Kanngieser’s work then shows how sonification can be used to generate awareness of the margins, through its disruptive possibilities.


[1] Also listen: